Words: Will Stroude
Today marks a landmark anniversary in gay TV history: Queer As Folk is officially 21 years old.
Yep, Russell T Davies' seminal gay drama chronicling the lives of a group of gay men in Manchester premiered on Channel 4 exactly 20 years ago today, on 23 February 1999. *Insert 'feel old yet?' comment here*.
Starring Aiden Gillen Jones as playboy advertising exec Stuart Allen Jones and a fresh-faced Charlie Hunnam as 15-year-old closeted student Nathan Maloney, the eight-part series offered a frank, funny and fearless depiction of LGBT live that had until then been unseen on British television.
As you might imagine from a show which included a graphic rimming scene in its first 20 minutes, Queer As Folk courted a fair degree of controversy on its debut - Beck's beer immediately dropped its sponsorship - but the show proved a surprise hit for Channel 4, whose 'risky' commissioning decision paid off when more than three and half million viewers tuned in for the first ever episode.
A two-part second series followed in 2000, and the show's success was enough that US network Showtime commissioned its own version set in Pittsburgh, which ran for five series from 2000-05 and attracted an equally loyal fanbase across the pond.
In a cultural TV landscape that saw gay representation limited to the ocassional brief same-sex kiss on soaps, Queer As Folk proved pivital for a generation of gay men and adolescents looking to find their place in the world, and helped pave the way for better gay storytelling in everything from Skins to HBO's Looking.
In 2010, the series was placed a number 13 in The Guardian's 'Top 50 TV Dramas of All Time', and continued interest recently saw US cable network Bravo announce plans for a possible reboot featruing an entirely new cast of characters (though, encouragingly, with Davies on board as an executive producer).
Charlie Hunnam, who's since established himself as a bona fide Hollwood star with roles in blockbusters like Pacific Rim and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword admitted in 2017 that he'd be "game" for a reboot featuring the original cast, which also included Coronation Street star Antony Cotton.
Speaking of those former cast members, we recently invesitgated what all of Queer As Folk's colourful cast are up to these days - click here to find out.
So there you have it. Happy 20th birthday Queer As Folk - we'll be celebrating the only way we know how: by binge-watching both series for the 1000th time on 4OD...